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MEG AND THE MYSTERIOUS VOICES
A Meg Jamison Mystery, Book One
BY D.B. HUMEL
Her favorite art professor murdered on campus.
Unwanted radio voices sounding in her ears.
And drug runners circling closer and closer.
Meg Jamison, a widow in her mid-fifties, a bit overweight and trying to paint colorful images for an upcoming art show, is terribly frustrated with her new hearing aid earrings. They just won’t work right. But when her youngest motorcycling son gets pulled into running drugs and all she has are broken frames for her artwork, the darn hearing aid turns out to be a lifesaver.
Tracking down a killer, while fending off pesky calls from an overbearing sister-in-law and learning how to deal with a younger would-be lover, Meg manages to balance all the bouncing ball and help everyone, including herself, in this lighthearted cozy mystery.
MEG AND THE MYSTERIOUS VOICES
A Meg Jamison Mystery, Book One
BY D.B. HUMEL
Editor’s Note: To comply with the PG-13 rating of this blog, one *F word was edited.
Meg sipped her coffee, glad she hadn’t found the body. Thinking she should go to the funeral, she put the paper down not wanting to read any more about the professor, afraid she might shed more tears right there in the student cafeteria.
She surveyed the early morning crowd. Students wandered in, shaking off wet snow, dumping their belongings on nearby tables. Papers rustled, chairs screeched as groups of students moved about. Voices mingled with the clatter of dishes.
“Anyone using this, ma’am?” A polite young man in a snow-covered jacket pointed to the extra chair at her table.
She shook her head, wincing at his use of the term “ma’am.” Probably thirty years older than any student around her, she hated the word and its connotation. “Take it,” she said and watched as he moved it to a table full of his friends. So young, just babies really, and probably all with perfect hearing. Hers was shot to hell. Ménière’s disease had taken its toll, an inherited gift from Meg’s grandmother.
Getting old sucked.
While she was in relatively good health for her age, and like Jack Benny hoping to be a perpetual thirty-nine, lately her hearing had gone down the old rabbit hole. Gradually she found the TV harder to hear and talking on the phone difficult. She hated having to ask others to speak louder and was terrified she would lose her hearing completely.
Not to hear her sons’ voices. Not to be able to have a regular conversation with them.
Not hearing well is bad enough, but being totally deaf would truly suck.
Meg took another drink of her coffee and lightly touched her right earring, then her left, fiddling with her new hearing aids, an expensive Christmas present to herself. She wasn’t going down without a fight. With all the new technology being expanded every day, she’d taken the bull by the horns and gotten herself state-of-the-art hearing aids.
And since it had only been a week since she’d gotten them, her gray cells were taking their time adjusting to the new sounds. One minute she’d be hearing perfectly like she was a young girl again, and the next minute she’d have to fiddle with them and try to zero in on the problem. Was it too much volume or not enough? Was the tiny computer chip not working? Had she put them in right? So much to learn, plus getting her brain to accept the sounds again.
Maybe choosing the latest experimental technology hadn’t been such a good idea, but on the other hand an implant felt too invasive. No, she hadn’t wanted an implant. And traditional hearing aids, those flesh-colored plastic things stuck in the ear for everyone to see, simply were not for her. They would make her look old and she wasn’t quite ready for “old.” Middle age was hard enough.
Her doctor had understood this, and while this state-of-the-art hearing aid wouldn’t be invisible, no one would know it was a hearing aid.
“How is that possible?” she had asked. Easy, he had told her. We’ll simply design them to not look like hearing aids.
And so she had gotten these lovely sterling silver earrings.
The actual components consisted of a tiny microchip that was secured in the center of the flower. Small dangling loops completed the earring. To the world they were just a pair of silver earrings, very classy-looking. To Meg, they were everything as they had given her back her hearing.
Now on her first day back from winter break, and before actual classes started next Monday, she wanted some time to fine-tune the equipment. She still hadn’t got all the settings to where she liked them, and this noisy cafeteria was the perfect place to practice adjusting the volume control.
With the tip of her finger, she turned the small button hidden in the flower back and forth, focusing her attention on a conversation at a nearby table. I’m not eavesdropping, she told herself, merely adjusting the aid.
Better to work on her aid than cry about the professor. Lightly twisting the flower, she turned her head ever so slightly, so her earring faced the voices.
If she could figure out how to pick up spoken words so they became distinct and clear while at the same time tuning out the background sounds she could sit anywhere in her classes, instead of always in the front row where she felt conspicuous as the little old lady in a sea of youngsters.
Finally zeroing in on the right settings, Meg was delighted that the words coming from the students at the nearby table were crystal clear. And the background noise almost nonexistent.
“He was a jerk,” a deep male voice sounded in her ear. “A little man with an oversized ego who flirted with—”
“But still, who would’ve killed him? And why?” A higher pitched voice asked.
As Meg slowly fingered one of the earrings, the voices decreased in intensity. “I heard there was blood all over the place,” the deep voice added. “He’d been stabbed, like you know, fifty times or something.”
“Nah, cops on the news said it was quick. Coupla jabs and it was all over.”
Stupid kids. How could they be so callous?
Meg heard the words clearly, but then they’d come from the next table only a few feet away. She studied the couple as they discussed the murder. They were speaking about the murder as if it were a common occurrence.
Not for her. She’d never known anyone who had been murdered. It was a bit scary, her knowing the professor so well. Hmm, she thought, was it a random attack or. . . . ? She searched for the article and read it again. However it didn’t say anything more. All the police knew was that the man had been knifed. Nothing else. But here on campus? My god, there was a killer wandering around the area. Who would be next? And why was the professor killed? It didn’t make sense to her.
Shuddering, she put the paper down and turned back to her hearing problem and wondered exactly how far away she could still hear voices and be able to make out the words.
Experimenting, she turned up the volume slightly, but the voices from the nearby table quickly became too loud and jumbled. She rotated the loop in the right earring until the sounds were again softer and clearer.
Ah, the light dawned, the dangling loops acted as an antenna. Damn. She should have paid more attention to the instruction manual. Never one to read the small print, her philosophy when it came to electrical equipment was hit the on switch and see what lights up.
Pulling back a strand of dark curly hair and looping it in back of her ear, she once again fiddled with the earrings.
She slowly rotated first the left loop, then the right one. As she swung her head about, focusing first on this group of people, then that group, all the talk she heard was about the murder. Everyone gave their suggestions and ideas on who the killer might be and why the professor had been targeted. Maybe some of these kids actually cared. She hoped so.
With her earrings working, she glanced at her watch and realized she needed to get ready for her winter term registration. She turned down the volume and went back to organizing her forms, checking to make sure they were all filled in correctly.
She’d planned on taking another session of painting. She needed just a few more ideas on how to mix certain colors and then, she thought, smiling to herself, she’d be ready for her first art show. She’d heard that the new art teacher was a great instructor as well as an artist, and she expected it to be an exciting class.
An angry voice caught her attention. Meg twisted around, her silver earrings swinging slightly.
“I hated him,” the voice complained. “Hell, I would have been willing to kill Professor Collins for a hundred bucks. No, I’d do it for free.” Determination flowed through the words. Hard words coming from somewhere.
She glanced around the cafeteria again. Who’d been talking? Could she put a face to the voice? No, that wouldn’t be right. She didn’t want to violate anyone’s privacy. But she needed to know who said these angry words. It couldn’t be the killer. But my god, could the killer be one of the students? No, that couldn’t be. He was a great professor. Kind and thoughtful to all his students. It had to be a stranger, looking for money. Probably for drugs.
Looking toward the main door, she saw her youngest son, Shane, the one who hadn’t yet decided what he wanted to be, enter the cafeteria. Jerking off his jacket, he threw it into the far end of the booth. Just the other day he’d told her that college was a waste of time, as he wanted to work with his hands, preferably fixing bikes. Big bikes. Bikes that made a lot of noise. He was thinking of dropping out of school and applying for a Harley-Davidson scholarship. Without the scholarship it was quite expensive. She’d convinced him to finish off the school year, and if he still didn’t think this was the place for him, she would pay for the bike school.
Ah, Shane. It’s too soon. You’re too young. Finish college first and then . . .. Meg shook her head, knowing she shouldn’t go there. It was, after all, his life. But he was her baby. It was hard to let go. He was still filling out and needed a few extra pounds to his frame. She’d be more than glad to give him some of hers.
Shane glanced around the cafeteria but didn’t seem to see her. Meg started to wave, but dropped her hand as he nodded at someone at the other end of the cafeteria. He didn’t know about her new hearing device. In fact she seldom saw him anymore unless he needed money or the occasional use of her washing machine. He was growing up. Too fast.
Damn, cutting the umbilical cord was hard.
Shane slid into the booth across from a guy sporting a waist-long ponytail and a face desperately in need of a shave. Great. Shane’s friend looked like a druggie not a college student.
Who was he? She didn’t recognize him, but then she didn’t know many of Shane’s friends from the college these days. Her heart skipped a beat. They were growing apart and she didn’t know what to do about it. Hard. It was hard losing her last child. She was really alone.
I wonder what they are talking about? What could Shane have in common with that scruffy looking kid?
Her finger reached for her earring, but she stopped herself. They were too far away. Besides, she shouldn’t eavesdrop on her own son—not on her own flesh and blood.
All the same she remained curious. Mighty curious. Her years of hearing problems left her with excellent lip-reading skills and everyone knew that wasn’t the same as eavesdropping. No, it was just a way of communication. A way of understanding what was going on around her. A way of staying connected.
No. She wouldn’t pry into Shane’s life. Folding up the newspaper, she grabbed her heavy winter jacket off the back of the chair, the empty coffee cup, and her forms and started to leave.
But couldn’t resist one last peek at her son.
Darn, she couldn’t see his lips. So no lipreading.
This did not sit well with her motherly instinct. The feeling that something might be wrong. Her sixth sense had kicked into high gear at the first sight of Mr. Ponytail.
Privacy be damned. She needed to know if Shane was in trouble. She couldn’t even imagine what he could be doing with Mr. Ponytail.
She didn’t like the looks of the kid at all. He radiated trouble. She did the only thing a mother could do—must do—she decided to find out what was going on. Dropping her papers on the table and sitting back down, she fiddled with her earrings. She increased the volume and turned the dangling loop towards Shane in hopes of honing in on his conversation.
Just then a loud snap echoed in her head.
It was loud. Too loud
Her hands flew to her ears. Shaking, she slouched down in the chair. The surrounding voices had faded. She looked around. All noise ceased to exist.
Nothing but silence.
Meg’s annoyance flared. Damn. The hearing aid had shut itself off.
Cautiously she fingered both earrings, spinning everything, turning them on and off.
No noises. Nothing. She could only hear her pulse beating in her eardrums.
So much for modern technology.
About to remove the earrings, she stopped abruptly when something again crackled in her head.
An exceedingly loud pop flew through her head.
Then she heard static that was like an old radio during a rainstorm. Crackling static.
Meg stifled a scream and scanned the cafeteria. Everything looked normal. Kids were still talking and laughing. No one was staring at her. No one had heard the loud bang. She took in several deep breaths and sat perfectly still until her heart slowed. What had just happened? Was it her hearing aid that had caused the sound?
Softly she began tapping, first one earring, then the other one. Nothing. Both earrings were clear. Even the pounding of her pulse had stopped. The static-like interference had disappeared so that she now heard voices again.
But not regular sounding voices.
Relief turned into confusion. What was going on?
The voices sounded different from the ones that surrounded her moments before. Very different. Hollow sounding, as if the words were bouncing off the walls of a large and empty room. And soft. Almost whispers.
Then, two voices collided, as if two radio stations were tuned to the same frequency. One voice continued to whisper, while the other deeper voice sounded as if in a long tunnel.
One muffled voice said, “Can’t stay long” and was followed instantly by a quiet, almost overlapping whisper. “You always have to leave.”
Meg shook her head.
One soft and low, the other louder yet muted.
Yet she heard them both—even made out the words. She was afraid to touch her earrings. Sitting still she cocked her head and just listened.
What could this mean? A technical glitch? Had she tuned into an actual radio station by accident? She’d heard of people’s tooth fillings picking up radio signals, maybe this—
“Joey. You goin’?”
Meg shook her head.
Both earrings jiggled.
This voice sounded normal. Not at all muffled or echo sounding. Her heart skipped a beat. What was happening? She rubbed her clammy hands together as she tried to think. She looked directly at her son’s booth and picked up another voice. “Shane, I’m going out of town for a few days.” Mr. Ponytail was talking, she could see his lips moving.
My god, I can hear them so clearly.
“Yeah,” her son replied, sounding skeptical, “out of town and into your girlfriend’s bed.” Laughter followed.
The regular voice turned suddenly into the tunnel sound. “If he only knew. Shit, why didn’t the old man just give me the money?”
Meg’s confusion grew. This was unreal. She couldn’t grasp what she heard. She looked at her son.
“Okay, Joey, but be back by Saturday. Got a big game set up. Poker, my man, at my place.”
Okay, that was Shane talking. It sounded normal. She both heard him clearly and saw his mouth move. But then his lips stopped moving and a whispered voice said, “You’re such a lousy card player, Joey, I’m going to win big this time.”
Wait. That almost sounded like Shane’s voice but hushed. But no, it couldn’t be. Meg blinked. Shane’s lips hadn’t moved. Hadn’t even twitched. So if they didn’t move how could she hear him? What the devil was going on?
The Joey kid, Mr. Ponytail, got up. “I’ll see you, man.”
And the hollow voice came again. “If Shane ever finds out what I did yesterday, I’m a dead man. His brother’s a cop. Shit. I’m so f*#$ed.”
Had she heard this right? Would Ponytail say something like that out loud?
She didn’t think so. She rested her head in her hands, her thoughts bouncing back and forth.
Had she really heard two distinct voices? From the same person? How could that be?
She tapped her earrings again and suddenly the background noises of the cafeteria resurfaced as if nothing had happened. Normal chatter swirled around her. The odd radio-sounding voices were gone.
Voices, exclamations, concerns, but mouths shut tight. My god, what the hell is happening?
Frowning, Meg put on her ski jacket, picked up her belongings, checked to make sure the earrings were still attached, and marched off to sign up for auditing the coming classes. Had she really heard what her son and Mr. Ponytail were thinking? She’d always been somewhat of a busybody, or so her kids had told her, curious about people and why they did what they did. Her husband said she was a nosy person. But she’d told him, “If you don’t ask questions you never get any answers.”
Curiosity killed the cat.
But not me. I simply have an extra gene, a curiosity gene.
Sue Viders is the author of over 25 books, articles and columns for both artists and writers. Her book Heroes and Heroines, Sixteen Master Archetypes is used in colleges and universities in both creative writing master programs and screen writing courses.
Deal a Story is an interactive card game consisting of 101 cards and six sections and is based on her Heroes and Heroines book.
The Meg Jamison Mystery series, books 1 and 2, are under the name of D.B. Humel, and up on Amazon. They are a series of cozy mysteries featuring an artist widow with a hearing problem.
And for her nonfiction writing friends, Dottie will soon be out in a series of Let’s Write a Story ebooks. The first one is Seven Ways to Plot.
Links to D.B.’s website, blog, books, etc.
Blog for Dottie:
Website for Meg: http://dbhumel.com
Meg and the Misguided Arsonist: A Meg Jamison Mystery (Meg Jamison Mysteries Book 2)
Dottie 1 – Seven Ways to Plot: Seven Ways To Plot: Let’s Write A Story!
and my all time favorite nonfiction book:
The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes
Thank you, D.B., for sharing your story with us.
Don’t miss the chance to read these books!